Friday, December 25, 2009

"A Sacrifice Far Greater"


The conception of the Lord Jesus Christ involved sacrifice. His birth involved sacrifice. His earthly life involved sacrifice. His death involved sacrifice. And His ongoing humanity and high priestly ministry of "ever living to make intercession for us" involves sacrifice (Hebrews 7:25).

When we confess the truth that God loves us, we are testifying of this willingness to forever take up His cross, as it were, in order to devote Himself to us. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit willingly laid aside the infinite perfection and joy of the Godhead in the eternal past by creating the human race in Their image, and then by redeeming us at the cost of blood. As we have stressed in these messages, we have no frame of reference for such grace and mercy. Little wonder then that the Apostle Paul declared that the love of Christ "passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).

There is one aspect of participation in the glory, however. Paul prayed that he might know "the fellowship of His sufferings," and he also wrote that we "bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal bodies" (Philippians 3:10; II Corinthians 4:10). Therefore, while we cannot fathom the love of God in intellectual or emotional terms, we do experience such self sacrifice as Christ lives in us, and we live by Him. "The sufferings of Christ abound in us" (II Corinthians 1:5). In born again believers, the Lord Jesus lives the same quality of life by His Spirit that He lived during His incarnation. And He dies the same quality of self sacrificial death. "So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (II Corinthians 4:12).

The particular pains, sorrows, and losses known in us because of this wondrous "hope of glory" do not feel glorious at present (Colossians 1:27). We often may not even know that our difficulties are the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. They may seem to involve merely the normal earthly experiences of a fallen world. However, we must recognize that normal earthly experiences were the heart of self sacrifice in the Lord Jesus. "The Word was made flesh... God was manifest in the flesh" (John 1:14; I Timothy 3:16). Becoming human, embracing its limitations, and suffering its pains involved great loss for our Savior. Being human, while inhabited by the Spirit of God, involves the same for believers, and provides at least some context for a glimpse of our Lord's sacrifice for us.

God's love revealed to us is a wondrous thing, and is the beginning of relationship with Him. "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). God's love revealed in and by us is an even more wondrous thing, and is the evidence of ongoing relationship with Him. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). We enter into the depths of His Person when the Divine love that is "shed abroad in our hearts" becomes the Divine love shed forth from our hearts (Romans 5:5; John 7:38). Again, it is a mere glimpse of the infinite love that motivated a sacrifice far greater than we can ever fully know. It is a glimpse nevertheless, and as the Lord Jesus lives, dies, and lives again in us, the wondrous heart of God is revealed in ways that can only be known thereby.

"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
(I Peter 5:10-11)

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